Change It Up: Why You Shouldn't Go to the Same Conference Every Year
I’ll never forget the admonition from my great friend and incredible consulting mind, Bernard Ross of the Management Centre in London, “Don’t return to the same conference year after year.” It rocked the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Conference when he proclaimed this in a packed session.
But he is right.
I just spent a few great days at the CASE District III Annual Conference. It was fantastic! But as I had conversations, it was apparent that most participants had not attended programs outside of higher education.
Many fundraising and other nonprofit segments have conferences within their field or specialty, and many are excellent. One of the greatest remaining benefits is networking and the time you have outside of the office to rejuvenate, think and plan!
One thing I find very refreshing about CASE is the void of consultants presenting and the same individuals presenting on the same topics. Recently, we were approached by a prospective client that was heading to a campaign due to financial troubles. A major factor—their last campaign fell far short of the goal. Flashback to me sitting at an AFP conference and hearing their consulting firm presenting a case study on just how successful that campaign was.
This year, I am taking a break from the AFP conference to attend the CASE conference and other learning opportunities—one outside of nonprofits and fundraising altogether.
When we attend the same conferences, see the same people and hear from many of the same people, we are not growing as much as we can. One of the things I love about our consulting practice is that we work with clients of all sizes and stripes. We learn from each engagement, which we are honored to work with. This is integral in helping us keep a fresh approach to each client. Take this same approach with your own learning plan.
Read outside of the field; take a class for credit or just self-fulfillment; consider embarking on a degree program; find an aspirational organization or great mentor and ask to shadow them for a few days.
Participate in those organizations and conferences in your field—there are many benefits—but don’t repeat the same professional development program year after year. Get outside your organization and your field to expand your horizons, learn and stay fresh!
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.